View Full Version : Monsanto, Opponents Both Claim Victory in Historic Genetically Modified Crop Case

06-22-10, 09:57 PM
Tuesday 22 June 2010
by: Mike Ludwig, t r u t h o u t | Report
(http://www.truth-out.org/monsanto-opponents-both-claim-victory-historic-genetically-modified-crop-case60678) http://www.truth-out.org/files/images/062210ludwig.jpg

In a landmark case on genetically modified (GM) crops, The US Supreme Court ruled (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/09-475.pdf) 7-1 on Monday in favor of agribusiness giant Monsanto and overturned a lower court's decision to ban the company's GM alfalfa until the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully analyzed the crop's potential dangers.
Monsanto applauded the decision and assured farmers that the alfalfa seeds, which are engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide, could be available for planting as early as this fall. Monsanto's opponents, however, claim they won the day (http://truefoodnow.org/2010/06/21/supreme-court-ruling-in-monsanto-case-is-victory-for-center-for-food-safety-farmers/#more-1217) because, under the high court's ruling, the GM alfalfa remains illegal until the USDA officially deregulates the crop, a decision that can be challenged by the public.

A coalition of organic farmers and environmentalists sued the USDA in 2006 over its approval of the Monsanto's GM alfalfa. The groups cited concerns that the alfalfa could cross-pollinate and infect organic alfalfa farms, and the overuse of Roundup herbicide could contaminate soil and groundwater while promoting the growth of Roundup-resistant "super weeds."
Monsanto and its biotech allies jumped in to support the USDA, but, in 2007, a US District Court in San Francisco ruled the USDA failed to address these concerns and placed a nationwide ban on the alfalfa seeds until the department completed a full environmental impact analysis.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer did not participate in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms because his brother, US District Judge Charles Breyer, made the initial ruling to ban the alfalfa.
An appeals court upheld the ban, so Monsanto took the case to the top. The company announced in March the completion of a nearly $200 million expansion (http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/2010/lulling_expansion.asp) of a chemical plant in Louisiana that manufactures the Roundup Ready herbicide.
The Supreme Court's ruling overturned the lower court's injunction because it was legal "overkill," according to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), Monsanto's lead opponent in the case.

"The bottom line is that the Supreme Court set aside the injunction because the vacating of the commercialization decision already gave us all the relief we needed, by forbidding RRA [Roundup Ready Alfalfa] planting until a new decision is made by the agency," CFS senior attorney George Kimbrell said in a release. "And at such time, farmers and consumers still have the right to challenge the adequacy of that process."

"The Court's decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future," Kimbrell said.
The case has been remanded to a lower court with the instruction to allow the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to make an interim decision and decide if some GM alfalfa can be planted while the USDA completes a full environmental impact statement.

"This is exceptionally good news received in time for the next planting season. Farmers have been waiting to hear this for quite some time," said Steve Welker, Monsanto's alfalfa business lead. "We have Roundup Ready alfalfa seed ready to deliver and await USDA guidance on its release."
The USDA, however, indicated during the case that the full deregulation is about a year away and interim deregulation will not be pursued, according to the CFS.

Organic food is the fastest growing sector of the food industry, and any move to deregulate GM alfalfa will be challenged, according to the CFS. More than 60 businesses, organizations and individuals supported the CFS case against the Monsanto's alfalfa, including the attorneys general of California, Oregon and Massachusetts, who filed a brief emphasizing "the States" interest in protecting its environment and natural resources.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, upheld the public's right to challenge future deregulation: "In sum ... the vacatur of APHIS's deregulation decision means that virtually no RRA (Roundup Ready Alfalfa) can be grown or sold until such time as a new deregulation decision is in place, and we also know that any party aggrieved by a hypothetical future deregulation decision will have ample opportunity to challenge it, and to seek appropriate preliminary relief, if and when such a decision is made."
In a brief filed in the Supreme Court supporting CFS, the Union of Concerned Scientists argued that genetically modified crops and their herbicides pose "substantial risks of harm to the human environment" because of their potential to spread unwanted genes to surrounding fields and promote herbicide resistant weeds. The brief states that both events are "likely" and the harm would be "irreversible."

Past reviews by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency found Roundup Ready alfalfa to be safe, according to Monsanto. The company claims Roundup Ready alfalfa was planted by 5,500 growers before the 2007 ban.


06-22-10, 10:05 PM
Aaaaand...a second opinion:

http://www.anh-usa.org/wp-content/themes/anhus/images/logo.jpg (http://www.anh-usa.org/index.php)

Breaking News: Supreme Court Kicks Critical Genetically Modified Alfalfa Issue Down The Road
June 22, 2010

A high-profile legal battle over genetically modified crops continues. The US Supreme Court in a 7-1 decision yesterday (June 21) did not accept a lower court’s total nationwide ban on GM alfalfa. But it did agree that the seeds could be dangerous and did not allow Monsanto to proceed with selling them. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) must now complete a study examining whether the seeds will harm the environment before approving them for restricted planting, a process that could go into next year, and which could lead to more litigation.

Why is this such an important issue?
Alfalfa, the fourth most widely grown crop in the US, is fed to dairy cows. Our friends at Center for Food Safety (CFS), on behalf of organic farmers, sued to ban the GM alfalfa out of the very real concern that it would spread uncontrollably and take over US pasturelands. When we wrote about this court case (http://www.anh-usa.org/genetically-modified-food-more-reason-to-avoid-them-and-why-they-threaten-organic-agriculture/) in May, we noted that GM foods cause sterility in hamsters, and that the real long-term risks to human health from these foreign molecules are still unknown. True organic beef and dairy products would become an impossibility since all cows would be potentially exposed to the GM alfalfa.

Some quick background
Monsanto is a multinational agricultural biotechnology company based in Missouri. It is also the leading producer of genetically modified seed, and sells 90% of the US’s GM seeds. Its development and marketing of GM seed and bovine growth hormone, as well as its aggressive litigation, political lobbying practices, seed commercialization practices, and “strong-arming” of the seed industry (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/12/14/business/main5978152.shtml) and especially of farmers have given the company the nickname “the evil empire” in many quarters. In ANH’s opinion, this nickname is well deserved.
Monsanto is the world’s leading producer of the extremely toxic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roundup_%28herbicide%29#Ecologic_effects) herbicide glyphosate, marketed as Roundup™. Several weed species, known as superweeds, have developed Roundup resistance largely because of repeated exposure. So Monsanto has created genetically engineered crops—soy, corn, canola, cotton, and alfalfa (with wheat currently in development)—which tolerate the herbicide; they are known as Roundup Ready® crops. Alfalfa is different from the others because it will spread and propagate itself without replanting.

The court case
In 2007, a federal district judge found that the USDA had failed to consider the environmental impact before it had approved the GM alfalfa seeds for commercial planting. He then canceled the USDA’s approval of the seeds, and imposed a national ban on planting them. But the Supreme Court, in yesterday’s 7-to-1 decision, found that the lower court judge had gone too far. The blanket ban prevented the USDA from considering a partial approval of the seeds, a process known as deregulation.
Monsanto cheered the ruling (http://www.monsanto.com/roundupreadyalfalfa/) and got its version of events into many major media stories. However, the Supreme Court left in place the lower trial court’s ruling barring the USDA from deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa, and sent the case back down to the lower courts for further proceedings. What this means, as a practical matter, is that the USDA will have to complete the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process, including considering more than 200,000 public comments it has received since issuing a draft EIS in December of 2009.
“It should be no surprise that Monsanto’s PR machine is working hard to spin the truth about the decision,” according to Andrew Kimbrell (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-kimbrell/supreme-court-case-a-defe_b_620087.html), executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Despite what the biotech seed giant is claiming, today’s ruling isn’t close to the victory they were hoping for…. While the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Monsanto by reversing an injunction that was part of the lower court’s decision, more importantly, it also ruled that the ban on GMO alfalfa remains intact, and that the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa remains illegal.”
“This point, which seems to be lost in some news reports, is actually a huge victory,” Kimbrell continued. “The Supreme Court ruled that an injunction against planting was unnecessary since, under lower courts’ rulings, Roundup Ready alfalfa had become a regulated item and was therefore illegal to plant. In other words, the injunction was ‘overkill’ because our [earlier] victory in lower federal court determined that USDA violated the National Environmental Policy Act and other environmental laws when it approved Roundup Ready alfalfa. The court felt that voiding the USDA’s decision to make the crop legally available for sale was enough.”
The L.A. Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sc-dc-court-monsanto-20100621,0,2393844.story) quoted Paul Achitoff, a lawyer for Earthjustice, as saying, “To the extent that Monsanto is claiming this a victory, it’s a very hollow one since no one can plant their crops.”